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Ex-Bond trader says Brazil luring CBD investment as demand grows

Cannabis plants growing in a greenhouse of Switzerland's cannabis producer in March 2017.FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images

A former US bond trader turned medical marijuana evangelist sees cannabis cash starting to flow faster this year in Brazil, where imported CBD is the only legal game in town.

Stuart Titus, chief executive officer of California-based Medical Marijuana Inc., expects sales at the company’s unit in Brazil, to more than double this year.

“Brazil is a great opportunity for us,” he said in an interview in Sao Paulo. “We’ll definitely be continuing to invest.”

Medical Marijuana Inc., which is scheduled to report earnings this week, expects to post total revenue of $65 million to $68 million for 2018, up from $26.5 million a year earlier, according to the company. Titus, who fled Credit Suisse First Boston in 1990, declined to say what percentage of sales come from Brazil.


America’s CBD boom: brazen claims, fake products, regulatory scrutiny

CBD, which doesn’t get you high, is benefiting from easing regulations around the world. Companies are pitching it as a natural way to reduce ailments from stress to inflammation. The trendy cannabis compound, found in both hemp and pot, has exploded since being decriminalized in the United States late last year, and it’s starting to draw more interest in international markets, including Brazil.

Brazil has allowed the import of CBD-based products for medical treatment since 2014, according to the country’s food and drug agency. Titus’s Medical Marijuana buys hemp produced in Europe and exports it to the United States, where it’s processed into CBD. Its subsidiary in Brazil sells products for the treatment of refractory epilepsy. The Brazilian Association of Epilepsy estimates 1.2 million people have the refractory type of the disease, with seizures that can’t be controlled by anti-epileptic drugs.

Recreational use of marijuana remains a crime in Brazil, and President Jair Bolsonaro, an evangelical former army captain, opposes easing adult-use weed regulations. Still, he’s said he isn’t opposed to a bill in Congress that would legalize the production and use of medical cannabis. In neighboring Uruguay, marijuana has been legal for almost six years.


Career Pivot

Titus, 62, invested in Medical Marijuana in 2009, when the company went public. At the time, it was using prepaid debit cards to manage tax collection and payments for marijuana dispensaries in US states that had legalized the drug for medicinal purposes.

Titus initially helped the company raise venture capital, and in 2015, he moved to San Diego and became chief executive officer, overseeing a strategy transition to focus on CBD.

The company has operations in Mexico and currently ships products to Paraguay. It’s setting up an office in Argentina and is also looking at opportunities in Asia, Titus said. Beyond its use to treat seizures, Titus says CBD will be embraced as a daily nutritional supplement.

“Certainly there’s a lot more we’d love to do,” he said.